Dark of the West is a stunning debut. It is expansive, unhurried, and thrilling. Whether it be political manipulations, forbidden romance, or plain chases, Dark of the West is sure to capture your attention.
Aurelia Isendare is a princess of a small kingdom in the North, raised in privilege but shielded from politics as her brother prepares to step up to the throne. Halfway around the world, Athan Dakar, the youngest son of a ruthless general, is a fighter pilot longing for a life away from the front lines. When Athan’s mother is shot and killed, his father is convinced it’s the work of his old rival, the Queen of Etania—Aurelia’s mother. Determined to avenge his wife’s murder, he devises a plot to overthrow the Queen, a plot which sends Athan undercover to Etania to gain intel from her children.
Athan’s mission becomes complicated when he finds himself falling for the girl he’s been tasked with spying upon. Aurelia feels the same attraction, all the while desperately seeking to stop the war threatening to break between the Southern territory and the old Northern kingdoms that control it—a war in which Athan’s father is determined to play a role. As diplomatic ties manage to just barely hold, the two teens struggle to remain loyal to their families and each other as they learn that war is not as black and white as they’ve been raised to believe.
(Disclaimer: I received this free book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Dark of the West is a fantasy full of unexpected elements. It has airplane battles, mythical horses, and fierce politics all in one book. You can tell from the beginning that this series is going to be expansive, as the sheer scope of the politics and world building alone foreshadows a rich history, as well as future. Not to mention that Hathaway’s words and writing is imaginative and descriptive. The prologue alone is stunning and just wrapped me up in a cocoon of longing.
Dark of the West surprised me. At the beginning, while I loved both Athan and and Aurelia, I was drawn to Athan. While both of our precious main characters are torn between their parents, Athan’s struggle is pronounced more at the beginning. He is torn between his ambitious father, a prominent general, and his mother who never wanted her children to be drawn into war. I could feel Athan’s essence being pushed and pulled. And his struggles with this siblings made me empathize even more with him. The ways he just desperately wants recognition from his father and the different ways his siblings cope with their parents.
Where as, halfway through the book, I began to find myself pulling more towards Aurelia. I was fascinated by Aurelia from the beginning – a princess who learns to stay beyond the radar, but who hears more than she lets on. But as she began to grow into her own, becoming more engaged, thinking more critically, I fell more and more in love with her. And my allegiance shifted towards Aurelia.
But I think this is proof of Hathaway’s ability to write compelling characters. As you read this book, this story, these character’s lives, you pick up on different elements. Elements that will speak to you, anger you, move you. Hathaway shows these characters growing, evolving, changing. And we are able to see ourselves in all these reflected angles.
Not to mention the world building is so intricate. There’s politics between the kingdoms of the North, those in the South and even in the East. And it’s deeply embroiled in war, turmoil, and revolution. There’s so much more at stake here. And Athan’s role as a soldier takes us straight to the front lines of battle. Of soldiers coming to terms with kills and the horror of war, of the sacrifices they are forced to make. Part of what Athan learns about in Dark of the West is the sheer monstrosity of war. The way soldiers are moved around like pawns by generals miles away. All part of one larger scheme.
While another part of this expansive world building are the challenges Aurelia and specifically her mother, has to endure for coming from the South and falling in love with a king from the North. Many look at her with some distrust, and exactly this seed of distrust is what makes their position, in some ways, so vulnerable. And her mother is, in many ways, also torn between her homeland and her home. Missing her language, her music, and being torn between trying to connect, while also the growing unrest.
And among the beautiful glittering world, and the characters that drew me reading the entire day, Dark of the West has political machinations that are truly impressive. There’s layers upon layers of betrayal, manipulation, treachery. We never really know who is one whose side and we feel for Aurelia who does not want to be married away, and Athan who really just longs for an end to this violence. Nestled within this politically charged world is the kernel of their love. Can their love succeed? Beyond lies, secrets, and deceit? Especially as they learn that nothing they’ve been taught to believe is entirely true. That the world, and war, is never black and white.
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Prize: Win (1) of (10) physical copies of DARK OF THE WEST by Joanna Hathaway (US Only)
Giveaway Starts: February 5th, 2019
Giveaway Ends: February 18th, 2019
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